We observe our planetary home’s beauty and functionality with awe and wonder. We consider how this world came to be with its many complex interlocking systems. Our planet functions for the benefit of humanity and all life forms as a marvelously dynamic machine. Older generations hark back to early Sunday School flannel graph visual lessons where teachers informed us that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” As children, perhaps we did not thoroughly understand the meaning of create, but we embraced the lessons with simple childlike faith. In later years teachers taught us about miracles in connection with God’s creative work in the production of our home planet. God’s act of creating the world and its living things was a miracle, our teachers stated.
Sometime between teens and adulthood we experienced a discussion of miracles. Did this term always refer to the physical production of something which did not previously exist? or the change in molecular structure of organs of sight to permit a blind person to see? or even the immediate healing of some other bodily ailment unaccompanied by any time-dependent healing process? In Christian theology Jesus was resurrected from the dead—the ultimate miracle. We frequently hear acquaintances proclaiming that certain events indicate the occurrence of a miracle. Belief or disbelief in miracles may relate to belief or disbelief in the existence of God. Our understanding of the multidimensional meanings of the term miracle, however, is often inadequate.
We introduced the topic of existence of different sorts of miracles in a recent post: http://jasscience.blogspot.com/2017/11/what-sort-of-miracle.html We listed three types of miracles from Hugh Ross’s volume More Than a Theory. Below we quote additional defining passages from that work:
- Transcendent miracles involve acts God performed outside or beyond the limitations imposed by the laws of physics and the space-time dimensions of the universe.
- Transformational miracles involve God’s direct actions to refashion a particular aspect of his created realm to produce something of much higher complexity and functionality. These miracles took place within the laws of physics and space-time dimensions of the universe.
- Sustaining miracles involve God’s continuous work throughout history to ensure that everything in the universe maintains the just-right delicately balanced conditions necessary to support human life.
In the history of Earth God has performed relatively few transcendent or transformational miracles. Our analysis proposes that transcendent miracles are rare. Transformational miracles are unusual events often resulting in extraordinary results. Finally, Sustaining miracles occur every moment of our lives. The Apostle Paul may have had this truth in mind when he penned Colossians 1:16-17: “For by him (Christ) all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…and in him all things hold together.” In a theological sense the truth of this passage holds and its scientific application extends to the framework of our physical existence.
Each instant we are sustained by coherent natural laws affecting every aspect of our physical lives. These are principles governing the behavior of atomic matter surrounding us moment by moment. For example, there are forces by which charged particles in the nucleus of every atom consistently and predictably hold together. Charged nuclear particles are constantly moving, bathing the cosmos in unlimited quantities of electromagnetic radiation. We are governed by hundreds of physical laws such as the force of gravity. The Creator established these working forces and laws when He created the heavens and the earth—forces and laws which exist constantly and unalterably. We are describing inherently present sustaining miracles. They need not be renewed each moment.
Sustaining miracles undergird our physical existence. Such miracles are not less impressive than more spectacular transforming and transcendent miracles, but the latter two types of miracles reap more public attention. This may be explained by their relative rarity.
A favorite scripture we have quoted many times is Acts 17:28: “For in him we live and move and have our being…” The Apostle Paul presented this truth as an apologetic for the very existence of God, the Creator, to the men of Athens who worshipped “AN UNKNOWN GOD.” The writer of Hebrews states, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3 NIV). Knowledge of sustaining miracles is an important foundation of our daily worship and devotional experience. Moreover, the knowledge of these different types of miracles serves as personal affirmation for God’s existence as Creator and Designer. We encourage discussion in our churches concerning the nature of miracles.